About Joe D. Simmons

Joe D. Simmons (1938–1995) was a man of vision and integrity. His global foresight was a single North American organization to coordinate metrology standards. He was the first to articulate this need for regional continental cooperation.
This vision led to his major role in conceptualizing and organizing NORAMET (North American Metrology Cooperation) and NACC (North American Calibration Cooperation). With these two organizations, Canada, the United States, and Mexico agreed to coordinate their national measurement standards and the accreditation of their calibration laboratories. This coordination helps reduce non-tariff barriers to trade by assuring that measurements are traceable to SI units. It also serves as a link to other regional and global standards organizations.
Recognizing the importance of accreditation as a means of engendering confidence in U.S. metrology capabilities via conformity assessment, Joe contributed to the development of NVLAP (National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program) for calibration laboratories. He stressed the importance of a single national standard for quality and competence in the calibration laboratories, a NIST policy on the expression of measurement uncertainity, and a formal internal NIST Quality Program for calibration services.

He also played a vital role in the development of the standard ANSI/NCSL Z540-I. This standard contains operational and quality-systems requirements for calibration laboratories—as well as for their measuring-equipment management systems—to promote confidence and ensure traceability in their measurements.

Awards and Education
1995: Certificate of Appreciation—NCSL; for outstanding work on the ANSI/NCSL Z540 Committee
1995: Andrew J. Woodington Award—Measurement Science Conference; for professionalism in metrology
1992: William A. Wildhack Award—NCSL; for his years of contribution to the metrology community and his continuing central role in U.S. and International Standards Committee activity
1980: Sustained Superior Performance Certificate—NBS

1959: B.S.—David Lipscomb College, Nashville, TN, Physics
1963: Ph.D.—Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, Physical Chemistry


Professional Affiliations

American Society for Quality—Measurement Quality Division

  • Founding Member: 1984
  • Division Chair:1994–1995
  • Founding Chair of the Measurement Quality Conference

Personal History

1938 Joe Denton Simmons was born in Elberton, GA to Fannie Lee and James Corbett Simmons.
1955 He graduated from Central High School, Chattanooga, TN.
1959 Joe received a B.A. degree, graduating magna cum laude from David Lipscomb College, Nashville, TN.
1963  He received his doctoral degree in physical chemistry from Vanderbilt University, and married Patricia Ann Phillips. They had two sons: John and James.
1963–65  Joe held a Post-doctoral Research Associateship at the National Bureau of Standards.
1965–94 He spent his working career at NBS/NIST. 
1995 Joe Simmons passed away in Gaithersburg, MD, at 57 years of age.
Joe's Career Highlights at NBS/NIST

  • Research Physicist in the field of high-resolution molecular spectroscopy; Joe performed basic research on high-resolution molecular spectra. In collaboration with other scientists, he published a series of papers that set forth a definitive analysis of the carbon monoxide (CO) spectra. As a result, CO was the most completely understood diatomic molecule. In addition to the CO work, he also studied the spectra of AlN, HF, and CNN.
  • Scientific Assistant to the Director of National Measurement Laboratory;
  • Deputy Director of the Center for Basic Standards, Chief of the Length and Mass Division; The Center’s primary responsibility was for the national standards for mass, length, time and frequency, temperature, vacuum, and electrical quantities, ensuring that they employed the best science and technology available and were compatible with those of other nations. It provided a wide variety of measurement services to the industrial and governmental sectors as the basis for measurement uniformity. During his tenure, Joe conceived and led an NBS-wide initiative to develop new and improved calibration services. The resulting Process and Quality Control Budget Initiative not only involved organizational units throughout NBS, but also had NBS calibration-services customers set priorities on activities proposed for funding. Subsequently, Congress approved increased funding of $5.5 M per year to several NBS measurement areas: optical and ionizing radiation, electrical and electronic, time and frequency, temperature, pressure and vacuum. This increase made major improvements in NBS metrology capabilities and services possible.
  • Chief of the Office of Physical Measurement Services; As Chief of OPMS, he coordinated and administered all NIST calibration services, performed in 14 different technical divisions. His office was the central NIST contact point for customer questions related to calibrations and measurement services.
  • In 1987, Simmons succeeded George Uriano as the NBS Representative on the NCSL Board of Directors, a position he occupied until his retirement from NIST in 1994. He was arguably the most active person ever to represent NBS/NIST to this organization. Joe’s promotion of the NCSL measurement-requirements documents; the numerous aspects of his service on the NCSL Board of Directors; his leadership of the NCSL development of a U.S. National Standard for quality assessment of calibration laboratories; his push for the development of a NIST program to accredit calibration laboratories; and his role in the creation of the North American Calibration Cooperation were all indicative of his long-term way of thinking about things. His efforts pushed NIST into an ever-more-productive interaction with the metrology community—both within the U.S. and abroad—to the benefit of all.